Swedish terror trial: 'I still check what people have in their hands'

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Swedish terror trial: 'I still check what people have in their hands'
A court sketch from the trial at the district court in Visby showing Annie Lööf and the suspected terrorist Theodor Engström. Illustration: Johan Hallnäs/TT

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf told a court on Wednesday how profoundly her life had been affected by the discovery that she had been the main target of July's suspected terror attack at the Almedalen political festival.


Lööf said that she had avoided giving speeches to crowds during this summer and autumn's election campaign, had been ringed by bodyguards at the Stockholm Pride Parade at the end of August, and still tended to compulsively check the hands of those approaching her to make sure they are not carrying a knife or other weapon. 

"It affects me enormously," she told the court. "You're on your guard. At times, I haven't allowed my kids to play in the garden without an adult watching. I don't normally open letters at home. I avoid big groups of people." 


She said that even now, five months after the attack, she finds herself on the look out for whether people are armed. 

"I still look at what people are carrying in their hands. I'm finding it hard to stop doing that."  

The far-right extremist Theodor Engström on July 6th fatally stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren in the centre of the city of Visby on Gotland, in what it later emerged was intended to be a terror attack on the political festival then taking place. He told police after he was seized that Lööf had been his main target. 

Engström's trial on charges of murder, terrorism and attempted terrorism began on Tuesday, and he is due to be heard in court on Wednesday afternoon. 

He has told police that the attack was "a scream" intended to bring attention to his mistreatment as a psychiatric patient, when he said he was "a ghost boy" kept in a "ghost cage".  

He admits to stabbing Wieselgren, and has acknowledged that his acts qualify as terrorism. Court psychiatrists have judged that he was severely psychiatrically disturbed, both at the time of his attack and at the time that he was examined by them. 

Lööf and her team had been in the central Donners plats square at the time stabbing took place, waiting to go up on a stage there, and were immediately rushed into the nearby Donnerska huset for safety. 


"The bodyguard said, 'come, we've got to go'," Lööf told the court. 

From the windows, her team could see blood on the square, and they stayed there for over an hour until police had determined that there was only one attacker. 

"I went into a dutiful boss mode, and said that we needed to count how many of us there are inside," she remembered. "I had to deal with my colleagues' emotional states." 

She said that she felt it was important -- "right and correct" to hold her Almedalen speech that day, and she felt she was not taking too much of a risk, as by that point it was clear that Engström was acting alone, but she acknowledged that she had felt "extremely vulnerable" up on the stage. 


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